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The Pros and Cons of Rewards Credit Cards

Posted: July 16, 2018 by Ashley Dull

If you’ve done even a little research into credit cards, then you’ve likely run across a number of blogs and forums with stories about people using credit card rewards to earn big bucks and fund lavish vacations.


But what’s the real story? Are credit card rewards really all they’re cracked up to be? The answer is: maybe. As with most things in life, rewards cards have both pros and cons, all of which should be considered before you decide to fill out an application.


Pro: You Can Save on Nearly Every Purchase


For the rewards card novice, cash back credit cards are the most straightforward and user-friendly place to start. And the most obvious pro to cash back rewards is the ability to save on just about everything.


With most cash back cards, you’ll earn cash back with each purchase that can later be redeemed for a statement credit. Cash back rewards are like a rebate good for any credit card purchase.


The amount you can earn will vary based on the card you choose and how you spend, with some cards offering big bonus rewards for purchases in popular categories like gas and groceries. And some issuers even have options for credit-builders to earn cash back rewards, so a bad credit score doesn’t have to get in the way of saving on every purchase.


Con: Some Cards Have Annual Fees


The first major con you’ll encounter with some rewards credit cards is the annual fee. The more rewards, perks, and benefits a card offers, the higher its annual fee is likely to be — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, depending on the card, you can often come out ahead of even the highest annual fees.


For example, a credit card with a $100 annual fee might seem steep, but if that card offers a high rewards rate in a category you use frequently — say dining or groceries — then you could easily earn more rewards in one year than you spend on the annual fee.


Of course, if you won’t get more out of the card than the annual fee is worth, it’s easy enough to avoid; just select a card without an annual fee. Dozens of great rewards cards are available sans annual fee, so you don’t need to pay to earn rewards.


Pro: You Can Fly or Stay for Free


Another prominent pro of rewards credit cards is the same one you often read about: free travel. If you’ve mastered cash back rewards and want to up your rewards game (and you like to travel) then a points or miles rewards credit card can provide significant value.


That’s because points and miles often have variable value based on how you redeem them, with travel redemptions almost always providing the best rate. In most cases, the very best redemption value will come from transferring your credit card points to an airline or hotel loyalty program, which allows you to redeem for free flights and hotel stays with your favorite brands.


Most points and miles credit cards offer the ability to maximize your earnings with the right combination of bonus categories, allowing you to rack up rewards at a remarkable rate all year long for your big summer vacation. Plus, the majority of travel rewards credit cards come with large signup bonuses, many of which are valuable enough for free travel right off the bat.


Con: Carried Balances Accrue Interest Fees


Another caution of rewards credit cards is also true of any credit card: the interest fees. When you use a credit card, you are essentially borrowing money from the card issuer to make a purchase. Interest fees are the cost of borrowing that money. Since credit card interest rates can be high, especially if you have a low credit score, carrying a balance on your credit card can get expensive quickly.


However, you can easily avoid being charged interest simply by ensuring you never charge more than you can repay in a single billing cycle. The majority of credit cards operate with an interest fee grace period on new purchases. This means you won’t be charged interest on your balance so long as you pay it in full before your due date.


Pro: You Can Get Extra Perks & Benefits


As if savings and free travel weren’t enough, rewards credit cards have another big pro: extra perks and benefits. To start, all the major networks — Amex, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa — offer cardholder benefits for most of their rewards credit cards that can include perks like primary or secondary rental car insurance and concierge services.


Additionally, rewards credit card issuers also provide many money-saving cardholder benefits and useful perks, including things like cellphone protection and exclusive discounts. Travel rewards credit cards, in particular, are much-lauded for their extensive cardholder benefits that can include elite hotel or airline status, annual statement credits, and airport lounge access.



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Paying for Car Repairs with Poor Credit

Posted: May 1, 2018 by Ashley Dull

While few people are overjoyed about the three- to four-figure sums that typically accompany auto repairs, the cost of getting back on the road can be downright terrifying for those without enough emergency savings.


Auto repairs can be particularly troublesome for poor-credit consumers who may have a hard time finding the financing they need to cover the costs. But a few options out there can help make repairs possible, some of which won’t require a deposit.


Use a Personal Installment Loan for Large Repairs


Given that the average auto repair comes in at more than $500, the bill your mechanic hands over can easily reach into the thousands. When you need to finance a sizeable chunk of money, a personal installment loan is almost always your best bet because they can be repaid through monthly payments over time.


Installment loans can be obtained in larger amounts than most other types of financing, typically ranging from $500 up to $35,000.  Repayment terms for most personal installment loans will range from six months up to six years. Most personal loans won’t require a deposit or collateral and can often be dispersed as soon as one business day.


While most mainstream lenders will prefer at least good credit for a personal loan, online lending networks can help you find lenders with flexible credit requirements. BadCredit.org’s expert-rated list of personal loan providers have large network of lenders to help you find a loan that can meet your individual needs and credit profile.


Use a Credit Card for Small Repairs


Depending on the size of your repair bill, it may be feasible to use a credit card to cover the cost. This is especially true in cases where you just need financing for a few weeks, as nearly all credit cards will offer a grace period of one billing cycle to pay off your balance before you’re charged interest.


At the same time, credit cards aren’t recommended for long-term financing, as they tend to have high interest rates, particularly subprime credit cards that often have APRs over 25%. Of course, even the high APRs charged by credit cards will be significantly less than that charged by a short-term or cash advance loan, which can have APRs of three digits or more.
When to Replace Instead of Repair


Depending on the extent of the repairs — and the state of your credit — you may be better off replacing your vehicle than putting thousands into a bottomless pit of mechanical misery. If you can get poor-credit auto financing and find an affordable car that is newer and in better condition than your current vehicle, it may be a better investment to upgrade rather than repair.


That being said, buying another car is a bad idea if you still owe money on your current vehicle (unless you can reasonably sell it — make sure to disclose the needed repairs in your ad). Some dealers may accept a less-than-pristine car as a trade-in, but others will likely balk at one in need of certain high-cost repairs.


You should also consider any additional insurance costs that you may incur from obtaining a newer car. If possible, look for vehicles that still have an active manufacturer’s warranty for the most purchase security.


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